100 days of lockdown – Editor’s round-up

Nicky pic 1

England’s pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels are preparing to throw their doors wide open again this weekend, boldly following in the footsteps of the retailers who now have a couple of weeks of experience with Covid-19 safety precautions under their belt. If you’re off to celebrate the easing of restrictions with a pint or a glass of wine, good on you. One Cheltenham businessman is so upbeat about the economy bouncing back that he’s opening a new restaurant. The Mahal (pictured)  will open its doors on July 6.

Mahal RestaurantWhether Boris was right to declare a Saturday the right day for the industry to reopen after more than three months is debatable, but the efforts to which our pubs are going to make sure that they’re as safe as possible, is huge.

With the mantra “socialise safely”, they’ve whipped out tables, put in sanitation stations, stuck arrows all over their floors/doors and windows and done everything they can to reboot their businesses and make sure we, their loyal customers, have a great time. And if we have to leave our names and addresses when we arrive, to help track and trace – then I’m fine with that.

Teatro’s Ryan Walters and Amy MalinsCovid-19 is still lurking in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives, but it seems that we’re now ready to face it up – albeit with the deployment of hand washing, face masks and social distancing.

With a pint in our hands, or whatever your tipple, we’ll all be marking 100 days of lockdown.

As someone said to me this week, it’s all so sad and tragic.

But it’s amazing how adaptable we are. While I’ve merrily shopped online (often with a glass in my hand at silly times of night – spending more than I realised), and am on first name terms with our local Hermes, DPD and Yodel drivers, for me there’s no substitute for the mean streets of Cheltenham, Leamington Spa, Oxford or Worcester.

Worcester Outdoor marketI’ve been out shopping a few times this week, and I’ve loved it. While I will continue shopping online, I’m not going to abandon my local high street. And with increasingly numbers of local retailers going online too, I can shop local.  It’s a win/win. Last week we reported on a new project to help more local food delivery options which is set to be launched in October.

And hairdressers are opening up too – some of them at 7am to pack their clients in. Personally after nearly five months without the ministrations of my amazing hairdresser, I look like Gypsy Rose Lee – with my flowing locks tied up in a bandana. I can’t wait to see her again on Thursday (the pic at the head of this report is pre-gypsy).

More people are heading back to their offices too. The lights are on and people are at their desks. While many of us are happy working from home (because we’re lucky enough to have the space to do so), many others prefer the buzz of office life.

But we can’t lose sight of the devastation that the pandemic is having on some important sectors – aerospace, automotive and many other manufacturing sub sectors. The creative and events industry is on its knees. The industry, which includes live entertainment, music, events, theatre, performance, and the arts generates around £110 billion annually (based on DCMS figures) for the UK economy.

Broadway tower 1 [1]So they’ve got together to do a lighting protect on Monday July 6th.

#LightItInRed is a UK based direct action lighting protest that is scheduled to take place on the night of Monday 6th July 2020 to draw attention to the critical condition of the UK live event and entertainment industry and its need for special government support to help it kick-start. Currently, unlike other industries, there is no set date for live events, shows, festivals and performances, etc. to restart after the Covid-19 shut down.

Boris Johnson at Speller Metcalfe. Image Credit- AFPBoris was out, in inimitable style, on Tuesday, sitting astride a large digger on a building site in the Midlands. Build, Build, Build – he trumpeted as he visited Malvern-headquartered Speller Metcalfe’s Institute of Technologies (IOT) project in Dudley.

“We cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis,” he added. A great motivational message it was too. However, I read his speech in full, and it was pretty thin on detail. Let’s hope that will emerge sooner rather than later.

He wants to revamp the UK’s sluggish planning system. One suggestion is to make it easier to turn redundant retail premises into residential in our towns and cities.

The government’s strategy of investment in science and technology continues is welcomed. Boris announced that this summer the government will create a new science funding agency to back high risk, high reward projects.

He went further: “as part of our mission to reach Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we should set ourselves the goal now of producing the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger plane

“Jet Zero, let’s do it.”

Good news for the UK’s space sector, much of which coalesces around Harwell Campus and Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire.

Milton Park Aerial LRAnd on our science park real estate sector too. Milton Park announced this week that it’s welcomed ten new tenants onto the site since lockdown began.

Reflecting on Boris’s Roadmap to recovery, Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Digital and Innovation, said: The Coronavirus crisis has shown that when government, business and the research sector work together they can deliver incredible results at pace. Now is the time to find solutions to the questions the Roadmap poses with the same sense of urgency.

“For businesses, quick wins that government can look to implement rapidly include increasing funding for Innovate UK, establishing new mechanisms to support business uptake of new technologies and strengthening the purpose of the Catapults by creating innovation zones or Catapult Quarters.”

At Business & Innovation Magazine, we’ve never been busier. There is so much news and information coming from businesses across the region, it’s a huge challenge to keep up. While not ignoring how difficult it is for many sectors of the region’s economy, and that there is very likely to be a huge increase in the jobless in the short term (a tragedy for every person made redundant), we make no excuses for concentrating much of our coverage on the positive signs, because in every crisis there are always winners and they will be in the vanguard as we begin to rebuild our economy.